March 4, 2024

The Complete Guide to Choosing the Right EV Charging Station for Your Commercial Property

How Working with an Experienced Electrical, Civil, and Structural Engineering Team Benefits Your Selection and Installation

The prevalence of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations is only increasing. In 2023, there was a 4% increase in EV charging ports nationwide in Q2, and then another 7.7% increase in Q3, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. This coincides with many places around the globe imposing zero-emission laws regarding new vehicle sales, such as New Jersey banning the sale of new gas-powered vehicles by 2035.

In our lifetimes, the gas pump could realistically become a relic of the past and be replaced by countless EV charging stations as more nations, states, and cities adopt similar mandates that would result in gas-powered vehicles fading into the history books. While this could raise some concern for automotive manufacturers and oil industry executives, it poses a promising opportunity for EV charging as an economic lane.

However, positioning your property to make the most of this new opportunity is more than just designating a handful of parking spaces to receive EV charging stations. It’s a complex and strategic endeavor that requires expert assistance, like working with a team of experienced electrical, civil, and structural engineers.

Today, we’re going to highlight how the right team of electrical, civil, and structural engineers can play an instrumental role in ensuring a successful EV charging station installation. First, let’s cover the different types of chargers you might consider for your commercial property.

Level 2 vs Level 3 Chargers

As the electric vehicle revolution surges forward, understanding charging infrastructure is crucial for informed decision-making. Choosing between Level 2 and Level 3 chargers hinges on your specific needs and usage patterns.

Level 2 chargers, widely available and relatively affordable, offer compatibility with most EVs and can be installed in garages or driveways. However, their slower charging speed (5-12 hours for a full charge) might not be ideal for everyone. Additionally, they require a dedicated 240V circuit, which might necessitate electrical upgrades to a property where the charging station needs to be placed.

On the other hand, Level 3 (DC Fast Charging) stations promise significantly faster charging, ideal for public stations and quick top-ups, and they are the most commonly used in commercial applications. Their power output (50-350 kW) translates to 30-60 minute total charges, a dream for busy drivers. However, these benefits come at a cost: Level 3 chargers are often more expensive to install and maintain, have limited availability, and not all EVs are compatible.

Partnering with experienced electrical, civil, and structural engineers can be invaluable in navigating these complexities. Their expertise extends beyond technical aspects, offering invaluable assistance in coordinating with utilities, assessing home power capacity, ensuring safe electrical design, and selecting optimal charger locations.

Additionally, they can help you navigate government incentives and rebates, provide ongoing maintenance and support, and future-proof your solution for potential upgrades. Remember, choosing the right charger isn’t just about speed, it’s about aligning with your specific needs and ensuring a safe, efficient, and cost-effective solution.

Why Work With an Engineering Team On EV Charging Installations?

Coordinating with Utility Providers

The rise in EV charging stations will undoubtedly impact the electrical grid due to the greater strain they will place on the infrastructure. Utility providers must be involved in these projects to ensure that the installation does not diminish the quality of life for other commercial and residential customers near the site of a planned installation. This emphasis doubles for Level 3 chargers, which need to use a considerable amount of energy to provide a quicker charge.

Beyond power consumption, installing EV charging stations requires digging to place new connections to underground powerlines. Blind digging could result in damage to other utilities that may have gone undetected beforehand.

Experienced engineers can account for all of these factors and more. They’ll take the necessary steps to address these points of concern proactively, assist you in obtaining necessary permits, and ensure the finished project results in adequate power supplied to your charging stations without creating conflict or competition with other local entities.

Assessing Existing Power

In some cases, utility coordination may not be needed. A commercial property may already have sufficient electrical capacity to charge vehicles at Level 2 or Level 3.

Engineers can evaluate your existing system and recommend the most suitable option, potentially saving you money and avoiding unnecessary upgrades. As an added benefit, if your property is already suitably powered, you can have your installation completed much sooner instead of waiting for all coordination with the utility company to conclude.

Safe Electrical Design

Even if your property already possesses the necessary electrical capacity for EV Charging stations, does the electrical design support safe installation and regular use?

Regarding Level 3 chargers, in particular, the stakes are high. With their immense power output, even minor electrical mishaps can have dangerous consequences. This is where the expertise of qualified engineers becomes indispensable. They understand the intricacies of high-voltage systems and prioritize safe electrical design at every step of the installation process.

One crucial aspect is proper grounding. Like a lightning rod channeling electricity harmlessly into the earth, proper grounding ensures that stray currents don’t flow through unintended paths, minimizing the risk of shocks or equipment damage. Experienced engineers meticulously design and implement grounding systems that comply with rigorous safety standards.

Circuit protection is another layer of defense. Just like fuses in your home, carefully chosen circuit breakers act as guardians, instantly cutting off power when they detect overcurrents or other anomalies. This prevents overheating, potential fires, and damage to both the charger and your vehicle. Qualified engineers select and install the right circuit breakers based on the specific charger model and your electrical system’s capacity, ensuring optimal protection without unnecessary downtime.

Finally, adherence to all safety codes is non-negotiable. National and local regulations outline critical safety measures for electrical installations, especially those dealing with high voltages. Experienced engineering teams are well-versed in these codes and meticulously follow them, ensuring your safety and that your charging station meets all legal requirements.

When you invest in safe electrical design by partnering with qualified engineers, you’re getting a charger and peace of mind. Their expertise translates into a reliable, efficient, and, most importantly, safe charging experience for the user and their electric vehicle.

Site Plan Development

As we mentioned earlier, installing an EV charging station is more than dropping one in front of a parking space and calling it “done.” There is much more beneath the surface that can be at risk without proper site planning, like the locations of other utilities, right-of-ways (ROWs), and easements.

Engineers can analyze utility location data provided by the municipal government or local utility providers to determine if there are any damage prevention measures that need to take place before installation. They can also coordinate with utility locating service providers to perform sweeps using a specialized locating device or ground penetrating radar as an added layer of insurance.

Site planning is everything when it comes to mitigating risk and ensuring compliance during an EV charging station installation. Without it, you could put your business at risk if preparations were not taken into account, such as risking damage to utilities that may result in repair costs that you could potentially become responsible for.

Additional Benefits

While the technical expertise of an engineering team is crucial for a smooth EV charging station installation, their value doesn’t stop there. These professionals provide a wealth of additional benefits that can save you money, ensure long-term efficiency, and prepare your charging solution for the future.

First, they can be your navigators through the often-complex world of government incentives and rebates. These programs can significantly reduce the initial cost of installation, and a qualified team can help you identify and secure the most applicable offerings. This translates to actual financial savings for you, making the transition to electric mobility even more enticing.

For municipalities, installing EV charging stations is a marketable feature for their community and often viewed as a stimulator for the local economy. Beyond generating additional revenue for the town, it also invites people to spend more time around these charging stations. Someone charging at a station downtown may decide to eat at a local establishment, visit a local shop, or make an appointment with a local service provider like a dentist or accountant while their vehicle is charging.

But their support extends beyond the initial setup. Ongoing maintenance and support are essential for optimal charger performance and safety. Experienced engineers offer tailored maintenance plans that ensure your station operates reliably and efficiently, preventing unforeseen issues and costly repairs down the line. This proactive approach gives you peace of mind and extends the lifespan of your investment.

Finally, they help you future-proof your charging solution. As technology evolves and your EV needs change, the ability to adapt is key. A qualified team can recommend solutions that are scalable and easily adaptable to future upgrades or the installation of additional chargers. This forward-thinking approach ensures your charging infrastructure remains relevant and functional as your EV charging venture progresses.

Work with Experienced Engineers for Your Commercial EV Charging Installation Project
Don’t let the complexities of EV charging slow down your journey. At KMB Design Group, we leverage our in-house electrical, civil, and structural engineering expertise, coupled with extensive utility design experience, to seamlessly plan and deploy your EVC station from start to finish – all while prioritizing cost-effectiveness.

Licensed in all 50 states, our full-service team offers comprehensive solutions throughout the process, from conceptual design to permitting to installation. As pioneers in the EV charging landscape, we stay ahead of the curve, ensuring your charging station remains efficient, reliable, and ready for the future.

Contact us today, and let’s charge your vision forward.